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Sea Fennel, Rock Samphire,
Criste Marine

Sea fennel (Crithmum maritimum, Apiaceae) is known by several names, including rock samphire, criste marine, and sea asparagus.1,2 The perennial succulent plant grows well in saline conditions, such as salt marshes and sea cliffs above the tide line, and can be found along the Mediterranean coast in Italy, Spain, Greece, Tunisia, as well as France, Portugal, North Africa, Croatia, the western coasts of Britain and Ireland, and the Black Sea. Considered a sea vegetable, sea fennel can be included in salads, pickled, or served as an appeitizer.1 The leaves contain several nutrients, vitamins (A, C, E) and minerals (iron, magnesium, zinc, iodine), and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It is thought that sea fennel’s antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory properties are due to its main component, chlorogenic acid.3

Hippocrates (480-370 BCE) suggested sea fennel as a diuretic and to detoxify the body.2 Dioscorides (40-90 CE) and Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) also spoke of sea fennel’s healing attributes. In folk medicine, sea fennel has been used as a carminative, tonic, and treatment for obesity and scurvy.4 Sea fennel lore includes the tale of Prometheus bringing fire to earth hidden in the stems of sea fennel (other variations include giant fennel or simply a reed) and Hecate preparing a meal, which included sea fennel, for Theseus before he embarked on his journey to slay the Minotaur.2

The essential oil is distilled from the leaves and stems. Chemical compounds include α-pinene, sabinene, β-pinene, limonene, terpinolene, alloocimene, Terpinen-4-ol, thymol methyl ether, γ-terpinene, β-phellandrene, paracymene, cis-β-ocimene, and apiole.2,4 Therapeutic properties include antioxidant, vasodilator, expectorant, cholagogue, carminative, and lymphotonic. One primary application of sea fennel essential oil involves the skin—skin tone, anti-aging and skin renewal, hyperpigmentation, and as a treatment for cellulite.2

If you are fortunate to live where sea fennel is readily available, the BBC has compiled a number of recipes:

Lori Glenn
HerbClip™ Managing Editor


1Souid A, Croce SMD, Frassinetti S, et al. Nutraceutical potential of leaf hydro-ethanolic extract of the edible halophyte Crithmum maritimum L. Molecules. September 2021;26(17):5380. doi: 10.3390/molecules26175380.

2Greek criste marine organic essential oil. Vessel Essential Oils website. Accessed June 7, 2022.

3Alemán A, Marín-Peñalver D, Fernández de Palencia P, Gómez-Guillén MDC, Montero P. Anti-inflammatory properties, bioaccessibility and intestinal absorption of sea fennel (Crithmum maritimum) extract encapsulated in soy phosphatidylcholine liposomes. Nutrients. January 2022;14(1):210. doi: 10.3390/nu14010210.

4Mekinić I,Blažević I,2 Mudnić I, et al. Sea fennel (Crithmum maritimum L.): phytochemical profile, antioxidative, cholinesterase inhibitory and vasodilatory activity. J Food Sci Technol. July 2016;53(7):3104–3112. doi: 10.1007/s13197-016-2283-z.